The state House voted 73-46 shortly after midnight today to override Gov. Bev Perdue's budget veto.
The vote to approve the GOP-authored, $19.7 billion budget handed the Democratic executive the biggest policy loss of her term. The Senate is expected to follow with an override vote later today or Thursday.
House Speaker Thom Tillis said late Tuesday night that he wanted the early morning vote to get past the issue and to concentrate on other matters as the legislature moves toward adjournment.
"Every day that we wait is another day that the agencies of state are wondering what they're going to do to plan for July 1," he said in an interview. "This is a bill we already made clear to the governor that we had the votes to override a couple of weeks ago."
Perdue responded in a statement immediately after the override:
"Tonight, the Republican-controlled legislature turned its back on North Carolina's long-standing commitment to our people to provide quality schools, community colleges and universities - all to save a penny.
"I vetoed the Republican General Assembly's budget because I believe it will cause generational damage to this state," she added. "We must have a highly trained workforce for our state to be globally competitive, and that education begins in preschool classrooms and continues all the way through our community colleges and universities. They are all equally important."
As expected, five Democrats broke with their party to help the GOP override the veto.The Democrats said they wanted to prevent a prolonged budget battle between Perdue and the legislature that could lead to a government shutdown. "Sure it would have happened," said Rep. Jim Crawford, an Oxford Democrat. "Where would we have gone from here?"
Gary Pearce, a veteran political consultant, said the vote was a clear win for Republicans.
"They have imposed their will on her and they beat her," said Pearce, who worked for former Gov. Jim Hunt.
"The budget is the biggest issue of all," he said. "This is the biggest loss. There might be other fights."
Republican leaders were determined not to extend a temporary one-cent sales tax increase. Perdue wanted to keep at least part of the temporary tax.
House Minority Leader Joe Hackney, who backed Perdue's veto, was critical of the budget and the wee-hours override.
"If I had the worst budget in modern North Carolina history for education, the environment, for courts, for human services, I'd want to do it at midnight, too," he said.
The N.C. Association of Educators planned to hold its lobby day and rally at the legislature today.
House members did not want "to look teachers in the eye" and vote for a budget that takes per-pupil spending below Mississippi, Brian Lewis, lobbyist for the NCAE, said.
Tillis indicated the teachers' expected rally did not influence the vote's timing.
Security was stepped up Tuesday night, with officers at the doors to the House chamber and others on the third floor. Two Raleigh police cars were parked outside the front door.
The House has been the scene of several disruptions that led to arrests, including one Tuesday night when three people were arrested in a protest over an environmental bill. About 100 people were in the gallery for the vote, but there were no distubrances.
Budget supporters have been targeted, Tillis said.
"They've gotten thousands of emails, I'm told, and a number of other things," Tillis said. "My ultimate goal is to protect the safety of every member, and I've asked for increased (security)."
General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver said there were no direct threats against any of the five Democrats. Internet traffic Tuesday indicated budget opponents were attempting to organize a late-night flash mob. No budget protests had occurred by 11 p.m. Tuesday.
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